Diversification in every aspect of the small cell eco-system was represented at SCWS 2021, a three-day virtual conference, organized by the Small Cell Forum from 11-13 May.
From new deployer models, to Open RAN components and products, and 5G use cases – in every industry and sector, businesses are diversifying, and so too is the technology to enable new services and business cases. What SCWS demonstrated was that many companies are already poised to take advantage of these new use cases, or are already doing so, from smart factories and Connected Cars, to indoor coverage and private networks.
And at the heart of all this are small cells, with the benefits they can bring to these scenarios. Industry experts from right across the spectrum – from Operators, towercos and neutral hosts, to semiconductor and RAN vendors to regulators, analysts and commercial business owners – joined to share knowledge and debate key topics during the virtual conference.
Prabhakar Chitrapu, Chair of SCF, said: “Small Cells World Summit 2021 has been a huge success and such an interesting conference, where our industry has been able to truly get together despite geographical differences to talk about the topics that matter to our industry.
“And the sessions have been fascinating and insightful. Open RAN was a huge topic for the conference, but equally popular were the sessions on neutral hosting, indoor solutions and towerco models – where the landscape is changing rapidly, and the opportunities for new players is huge. I hope everyone enjoyed the event, and I’d like to thank all those who were involved and our sponsors.”
In the opening keynotes Julius Robson, Chief Strategy Officer of SCF, highlighted the key role of diversification in SCF’s work – likening biodiversity and the small cell industry as examples of diverse ecosystems being richer and more resilient to change. In the context of SCWS this can be applied, but not limited, to: Diversity of Applications; Diversity of Supply Chain; and Diversity of Deployers.
Meanwhile Caroline Gabriel, Co-founder of Rethink Research, validated this view with the latest Small Cell Market Status data. Diversification, she pointed out applies to vendors, deployers, technical architectures and business models, and crucially will be enabled by spectrum availability and open architectures.
The content on Day 2 of the conference served to bring this theme of diversification to life, through case studies and market data.
In the Neutral Host and Indoor Systems session, the panel including Dave Morris, from Telefonica O2, representing the JOTS NHIB and Kate Pontin from Vodafone UK, were in agreement that the JOTS specifications and reducing the cost of small cells will be the key to grow the market and generate an eco-system where multiple operators can work together to improve indoor coverage for building owners. And in the Towerco and Neutral Host Hodels sessions, Laura Graves, Head of Research at Tower Xchange, shared data on the towerco industry and highlighted the diversification in this sector. She mentioned that towercos are looking at up to 1/3 of revenue to come from non-traditional areas such as; movement into DAS , fibre and small cells, and IoT and Smart Cities.
Three sessions on Day 2 focused on Open RAN and small cell components, these were the Small Cell Open RAN session, Open RAN eco-system and Small Cell Product and Component sessions.
The Open RAN ecosystem session featured a forthright assessment of the practicalities of deploying open networks, from BT’s Rich Mackenzie. With three vendors from different parts of the ecosystem also participating, the diversity of the emerging ecosystem was highlighted, and the way in which much of the pioneering of open platforms is being done in small cells first. All the panellists agreed on at least one thing – that openness did not have to mean uniformity, and different architectures and splits would be appropriate in different scenarios.
And two stand-out end-of day sessions brough some unique perspectives to the conference. On the end of Day 1 the US Small Cell Build-outs session brought together industry leaders from companies such as AT&T, Ericsson, OnGo Alliance, Geoverse and Lockheed Martin, discussing urban and enterprise small cell deployments by MNOs, the status of the CBRS shared spectrum networks ecosystem, use cases by Private Networks Operators and go-to-market strategies. And at the end of Day 2 the Emerging Technologies session brought together experts from Reliance Jio, Harman, Qualcomm, Interdigital and the Wireless Broadband Alliance, to discuss the latest advancements in technology that could drive future use cases like smart cities.
For delegates the conference platform remains open for the next two weeks, for sessions to be watched.